In this study, microalgae Scenedesmus quadricauda was entrapped in calcium alginate/polyvinyl alcohol composite hydrogel beads by phase-inversion techniques. The composite biosorbents were used for removal of Cu(II) and Cd(II) ions from single component and binary systems using cell-free composite beads as a control system. The effects of the experimental conditions (such as pH, initial metal ions concentrations, temperatures, contact time, and biosorbent concentrations) on Cu(II) and Cd(II) removal efficiencies were studied. The maximum metal ions on the bare and algal biomass immobilized in alginate beads were observed between pH 5.0 and 6.0. The biosorption of metal ions by the bare and composite beads increased as the initial concentration of the metal ions increased in the medium. The biosorption of Cu(II) and Cd(II) on the composite beads appears to be slightly temperature dependent. The maximum biosorptions of metal ions onto microalgae entrapped in composite beads were 0.970 +/- 0.028 and 0.682 +/- 0.017 mmol/g for Cu(II) and Cd(II) ions, respectively. The equilibrium experimental data for two metallic species fitted well by the Langmuir model. The values of Delta G degrees at all temperatures are negative, indicating the spontaneous nature of the biosorption process. When the metal ions competed (in the case of the biosorption from their mixture), the amounts of biosorption onto microalgae cells entrapped in beads were 0.857 +/- 0.033 mmol/g for Cu(II) and 0.593 +/- 0.024 mmol/g for Cd(II). Under noncompetitive and competitive conditions, the affinity order of ions for biosorbents was Cu(II) > Cd(II).